News roundup: Pickens changes his tone, records blown away, and the clean energy transition

22 January 2014 by Peebles Squire Peebles Squire

It’s Wednesday, and wind power is stirring up the news from the American Midwest all the way to continental Europe.

T. Boone Pickens writes in this week’s Des Moines Register on the affordability and competitiveness of wind power in Iowa:

  • “Natural gas is the cheapest energy source in America, a reality that has hindered aggressive development of renewable energy in Iowa and elsewhere. While the federal production tax credit has kept the alternative industry alive, thankfully, the same innovation and technology advances that have reshaped the domestic oil and natural gas landscape have also impacted the wind industry.”
  • “Wind energy is becoming economically feasible again. The Iowa Wind Energy Association calculates that nearly $10 billion has been invested in Iowa's wind farms and manufacturing facilities. That figure might well double in the next three to five years.
  • “Even without the tax incentives, wind is growing increasingly competitive as an energy source. More efficient turbines, better siting, the ability to tie into regional electric grids and other factors are all positive factors.”

The Sierra Club’s Javier Sierra highlights the amazing performances by wind power across the world in 2013, even when facing policy uncertainty here at home:

  • “And in December, Denmark became the first country ever to generate more than half of its energy from wind, a total of 54.8 percent. Specifically, on December 21, wind fulfilled that country's entire energy demand, and over the course of the year, it produced one third of the consumed total.”
  • “The good news also abounds here at home. In Texas, during the extreme cold spell that gripped almost the entire country during the first week of the year, wind energy saved the day for a grid that was overwhelmed by demand. On January 7, when several power plants shut down, wind energy from Western Texas avoided dangerous blackouts throughout the state. This is the logical result of Texas having added more wind energy to the grid than any other state.”
  • “It's no wonder then that the price of wind power is hitting record lows: 4 cents per KW/hour, 50 percent less than in 2009. It's no wonder also that the utility owned by Warren Buffett has invested $1 billion to purchase enough wind turbines in Iowa to generate 1,000 MW.”

The New York Times’ Editorial Board called out the importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions now, with a few words for the European Commission:

  • “Last October, the chief executives of 10 European energy companies urged the European Union to end subsidies for wind and solar power, claiming these have distorted the market, led to higher energy costs and put Europe’s electricity grid at risk of a blackout. This was dreadful advice. Economic decisions have already caused a decline in investment in renewable energy in Europe. Investment fell in Spain, France, Italy and Germany in 2013, and only Britain managed to come close to matching 2012 investment levels in 2013. Worldwide, clean-energy investment fell 12 percent last year.”
  • “The United Nations report is clear: However hard it may be to move to renewable energy, it pales in comparison with the cost of not moving aggressively to reduce emissions. At current rates, carbon dioxide levels, now over 400 parts per million, will surpass 500 parts per million in a few decades, with devastating climate-change consequences.”
  • “The European Commission must not allow economic arguments from utility companies or individual governments to deter it from giving Europe the clearest possible blueprint for a renewable-energy future. The world cannot afford to have Europe abdicate its leading role on climate change now.”

Be sure to check out Tuesday's News roundup too: U.S. offshore's Big Mo, surviving Maine winters, and a new JV

Sources:

T. Boone Pickens, “Another View: Wind's outlook remains strong.” Des Moines Register. 21 January 2014.

Javier Sierra, “Smooth Sailing: Wind Energy Is Breaking World and National Records.” Huffington Post. 21 January 2014.

Editorial, “Backsliding on the Climate.” New York Times. 21 January 2014.